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Reviewed by:
  • China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832– 1905
  • Kathleen L. Lodwick
China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832– 1905. By Alvyn Austin. [Studies in the History of Christian Missions.] (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2007. Pp. xxxii, 506. $45.00 paperback.)

Had Hudson Taylor decided to sell soap to the Chinese instead of his narrow evangelical Protestantism he would have been a millionaire." Success sells" was one of his mottoes, and he refused to allow his agents in Britain, mostly his relatives and in-laws from the Guinness brewing family, and in America to publish anything negative about his work. Austin has done an admirable job of piecing together the story of both Taylor and his China Inland Mission (CIM), and a biography of Pastor Hsi Liao-chih (later Shengmo—Overcomer of Demons), who was, and still is, touted as the leader of an indigenous church,but who was also running a very profitable morphine business at his opium refuges. Austin sees opium as a major theme running alongside the CIM in China and thinks that the level of violence committed by the Boxers in Shansi can be attributed to both the prevalence of opium and the practice of [End Page 408] Christian converts not paying 40 percent of their taxes, which was deemed to be what was spent on Chinese operas that Christians shunned.

Taylor's CIM was a faith mission run on the belief that God would provide whatever was needed and funds must never be solicited. He attracted largely working-class people, and was always fearful that recruits joined the mission only to achieve a higher social standing. Few of his missionaries were ordained, and many were self-supporting. Writing with frequent references to Pilgrim's Progress, Austin traces the life of Taylor, son of a Yorkshire chemist, with little formal schooling, both theologically and institutionally, as he established and autocratically ran the largest mission organization to work in China. Originally, Taylor had close ties to the Plymouth Brethren, but he changed his church affiliation several times as did many of those who worked with him. He always wanted his CIM to be interdenominational; so he obscured his personal beliefs.

Believing, like Charles Gutzlaff before him, that China could be converted by the "blitz" method, Taylor recruited his first group of missionaries in 1865 and decreed that they should wear Chinese dress and that the men grow queues (wearing fake pigtails sewn to their hats while their hair grew). Taylor shunned contact with diplomats and smuggled his workers into all parts of China. One British consul wrote that "religious mania . . . sent uneducated and impulsive young men and women into the interior of China where their religious fervor evaporated." Overall, the CIM certainly had more than its share of oddballs, kooks, and eccentrics, and Austin even broaches the subject of unhappy marriages among the missionaries.

Learning Chinese was a daunting task for any missionary, and the CIM produced two major linguists F. W. Baller, who wrote mandarin lessons, and R. H. Mathews, whose dictionary is still in use. Some of the Cambridge Seven believed they would acquire Chinese through prayer and shunned formal lessons, until they realized their prayers had not been answered positively. Although widely publicized in CIM literature and responsible for the student volunteer movements on college campuses, several of the Seven had not attended any college! The Cambridge Seven worked under the direction of Pastor Hsi, a first among foreign missionaries.

Less well known than his work in China is Taylor's connection to the evangelical church movement in North America, which he helped foster.

Overall this is a fascinating account that will contribute to our further understanding of the mission movement in China. Unfortunately, it is flawed by poor editing where sentences are repeated in the same paragraph (p. xxviii). [End Page 409]

Kathleen L. Lodwick
Pennsylvania State University/Lehigh Valley
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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 408-409
Launched on MUSE
2008-05-30
Open Access
No
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